Saturday 29 December 2012

Stop persecution of worker activists and political prisoners in Iran. Free them now!

The regime in Iran has again stepped up its persecution of worker activists – from more arrests to harassment of those already in jail and their families. These activists are in prison purely for their trade union activities. They must be freed immediately and unconditionally.

Reza Shahabi is a leader of the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs United Bus Company. He has been in prison for the past two and a half years. Shahabi suffers from a number of ailments, and since last week in protest against denial of proper medical care has begun a hunger strike and is also refusing medicines. There are now serious concerns for his health.

Five members of the workers’ organisation the Co-ordinating Committee to Help Set Up Labour Organisations have been arrested in the city of Bokan in the West of Iran. They are: Jamal Mina Shiri, Ebrahim Mostafa Poor, Ghasem Mostafa Poor, Hadi Tanomand and Mohammad Karimi. Their families, who have been protesting outside the Intelligence Ministry, have been told that the detained activists will remain in prison for another week.
Pedram Nassrollahi, a member of the Co-ordinating Committee to Help Set Up Labour Organisations, has had a third court hearing where his 19-month sentence has been confirmed. He has also been moved to solitary confinement and is currently incommunicado.

Behnam Ebrahimzadeh is a labour and children’s rights activist and a member of the Follow-Up Committee to Set Up Free Labour Organisations. Ebrahimzadeh, who has already served half of a five-year sentence, has been moved to solitary confinement and is currently incommunicado.
According to the Follow-Up Committee to Set Up Free Labour Organisations, the children of jailed labour activist Mohammad Jarahi are being harassed as a way of exerting pressure on their father. Jarahi has already spent 15 months in prison, as part of a five-year sentence.

Ali Nejati, a leader of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Workers’ Union, and his wife Shahnaz Sogand are constantly being summoned and harassed.

In addition, Shahrokh Zamani, a member of the Follow-Up Committee to Set Up Free Labour Organisations, is serving an 11-year sentence; Rasoul Bodaghi, a member of the Teachers Trade Association, is serving a 6-year sentence; Abdolreza Ghanbari, a teacher activist, is on death row for taking part in an anti-government demonstration in December  2009; and numerous political dissidents are in prison for opposing the Islamic regime.  
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All jailed trade unionists and political prisoners must be freed immediately and unconditionally! Harassment of workers and their families must stop immediately! 

Free Them Now! Campaign to Free Jailed Workers in Iran
Shahla Daneshfar
Bahram Soroush

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Iran: Worker campaigners start sit-in outside the National Assembly

Workers behind a petition protesting low pay and deterioration of the labour law today started a sit-in outside the National Assembly in the capital Tehran, according to the Free Union of Iranian Workers. The petition, which has been circulating across the industries in Iran since this summer, has so far attracted over 30,000 signatures. Prior to the start of the sit-in at 10am this morning local time, the co-ordinators of the campaign submitted a letter and the last 10,000 batch of the collected signatures to the Labour Ministry. The campaigners have said that if their calls for pay rise and the scrapping of the amendment to the labour law and other welfare demands go unheeded, they will call on other workers to join the sit-in protest.

Workers in protest outside the Islamic Assembly, Tehran, 18 December 2012. Banners, from right to left:  * One day’s MP’s expenses = one month’s workers’ pay. * 30,000 workers protest pay freeze and anti-labour amendments to the labour law. * Poverty line = $400/month, workers’ pay = $300/month

The full text of the petition is reprinted below.

Text of the petition

To: Minister for Labour, Welfare and Social Affairs
Copy to: Members of the Islamic Assembly and the Office of the President

As we all know, since a year and a half ago with the introduction of phase 1 of the plan to eliminate subsidies, there has been a several-fold increase in the price of basic household goods. At the same time, the average pay of workers, compared to the years before the introduction of phase 1 of the plan, has even dropped. In addition, with the levying of, first, a 4%, and then a 5% value added tax on consumer goods, in effect 5% of the daily pay of workers, this being already below the poverty line, has been siphoned off to the Treasury. Meanwhile, delays in payment of wages are wreaking havoc. Despite this grim and unbearable situation, an extremely anti-labour amendment to the labour law, targeting workers’ job security and standard of living, has been drafted, which is soon to be put to the Assembly. The last two years’ average pay, which formed the basis for working out the pensions, has now been changed to the last five years’ average pay, leading to a sharp fall in pensions. The insurance cover for millions of construction workers, despite their having registered and paid for it, has still not come into effect. Contractor companies are busy ripping off workers, and job insecurity, redundancies and plant closures are at an all-time high.

There is no doubt that not only workers but any decent and fair-minded person would consider the imposition of such conditions on millions of workers and their families as unacceptable. Therefore, we the undersigned workers demand, as urgent steps towards putting an end to the current appalling situation, a rise in the minimum wage in line with the true rate of inflation based on the cost of living, at a decent level, of a four-member household, to be determined with the participation of the representatives of workers elected at their general assemblies. Additionally, we insist that the amendment to the labour law be scrapped and the calculation of pensions based on the average of the last five years’ pay be terminated. We demand the immediate implementation of the insurance scheme for construction workers, as well as of the government undertaking to end employment through third-party contractors and the signing, instead, of direct and permanent contracts with workers. We further demand the introduction of firm, legally binding mechanisms to ensure timely payment of wages and prosecution of employers who force workers to work without a contract of employment or with so-called blank contracts or who fail to pay the workers on time.

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To all trade unions and labour sites

Please express solidarity by widely publicising the campaign and the news of the protest.

For further info, contact:
International Labour Solidarity Committee – Iran
Co-ordinator: Shahla Daneshfar (
Spokesperson: Bahram Soroush (
18 Dec 2012